Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a great action RPG with an outstanding story. The characters are likeable with engaging arcs, while the cut scenes offer jaw-dropping spectacle. Combat is enjoyable enough, although the introduction of larger parties and swappable character classes both have major drawbacks, which can make fighting enemies feel repetitive halfway through this lengthy adventure.
- Engaging and emotional story
- Spectacular action-packed cutscenes
- Incredible music and great visuals
- Expansive and detailed high-fantasy world
- Combat can feel repetitive
- Weak progression system
- Little incentive for exploration
- Genre: Action RPG
- Platforms:Nintendo Switch
- Release date:29th July 2022
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is one of the most ambitious games I’ve ever played on the Nintendo Switch.
Monolith Soft has upped the scale of the action RPG combat, now with up to seven characters in your party, while also creating a gorgeous expansive world that I’m shocked is able to run on Nintendo’s portable console.
Even the story is ambitious, with thrilling action set pieces with enough spectacle to rival any anime series, and a compelling story premise that explores the horrors of perpetual war. But it was the emotional personal stories of the six main characters that kept me invested throughout the 50-hour adventure, ensuring both a relatable and grounded experience despite the high fantasy backdrop.
Those who have never played a Xenoblade game before needn’t worry about jumping into this third entry either, with an all-new story and cast. There are subtle links and references to the previous two instalments, but they feel more like easter eggs than important story context.
Nintendo provided me early access to Xenoblade Chronicles 3, so I’ve been able to play through the entire game before release. Here are my thoughts.
- A unique and intriguing story premise
- Focuses on six main characters
- Abundance of cutscenes can be jarring
The story of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 revolves around two nations locked in a perpetual war for no clear reason. Soldiers are forced to fight non-stop during their artificially limited 10-year lifespan, or risk their colony being wiped out.
We view this war-ravaged world through the eyes of Noah and his two friends, who are forced to become fugitives. In order to survive, they reluctantly team up with a trio from a rival nation, who find themselves in a similar predicament.
At first, the two groups show resentment for each other, fueled by the grief and turmoil that the opposing faction has inflicted. But throughout the adventure, we see the six characters grow closer, realising they’re not so different after all, and have only been fighting due to the tribalism culture encouraged by those in power.
It was really heartwarming to see these bonds grow stronger, including both the quiet moments camping in the wilderness and epic-scale battles that drive the story forwards. This involves a lot of cutscenes throughout the campaign, including flashbacks to flesh out the backstory.
The abundance of cutscenes can be jarring, sometimes making it feel like I’m watching an anime rather than playing a game. But then again, I never found myself tempted to hit the skip button, as I was always excited to see how each character’s story arc would develop, and whether there’d be another jaw-dropping plot twist around the next corner.
However, I do feel the story loses its grounded focus on war in the latter half, instead opting for the stereotypical action JRPG tropes such as giant mecha robots and God-like entities. I still very much enjoyed the story, but the journey will no doubt be more memorable than the conclusion.
- Parties can now have up to seven characters in combat
- Can unlock new character classes throughout adventure
- Poor progression system makes combat repetitive
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 uses a similar combat system to its predecessors, with characters automatically attacking enemies when close enough. You then have the option to use a number of special attacks called Arts. These will multiply the damage of your attacks, and can also be boosted by other factors.
For example, Noah’s Edge Thrust move will deal more damage if used behind an enemy, while the Air Slash skill will be strengthened when triggered, just as you land your previous attack. I enjoyed this aspect of combat, since it encourages you to perfect your timing and be aware of a character’s position. Every Art has its own charge-up time, too, preventing you from spamming the most powerful attack repeatedly.
Each character in your roster has a main role, too. Attackers deal the most damage; Tanks draw enemy attention while blocking incoming attacks; and Healers can both restore health and apply buffs to the team. This kind of system usually works well in MMO games, since it requires coordination with other players. But Xenoblade is a single-player experience, and the AI is so clever here that it takes away that challenge.
The biggest change to the combat compared to previous entries in the series is the size of your party. You can have up to seven characters fighting simultaneously on your team, six of which you’re able to swap between at any moment. While having so many fighters on screen simultaneously can make battles look chaotically spectacular, it can often cause your contribution to feel relatively minimal. As a result, defeating a challenging enemy rarely felt rewarding.
But my biggest issue with the combat is the lack of meaningful progression, which makes it feel painfully repetitive towards the end of the 50-hour campaign. If sticking to your favourite character class, you can’t unlock additional attacks which means you’ll be spamming the same moves from beginning to end.
You can at least unlock additional character classes, complete with new attacks and abilities, and assign them to anyone in your party. But switching to a completely different class mid-game, rather than improving upon your starting class, lacks the satisfying sense of progression that the very best RPG games offer.
I may have been able to look past the poor progression system if combat was tactically compelling enough to keep me engaged. However, I found that I never needed to alter my plan of attack, whether I was fighting a wolf, human or even a giant robot. There are seemingly no unique points of weakness for each enemy type, and there’s no need to pay attention to attack patterns since there’s no dodge mechanic – just keep using the same combo attacks and you should be fine.
I still think combat has enough features to be enjoyable for the most part of the campaign, with the likes of fusion arts, chain attacks and interliking preventing it from ever becoming boring. But by the end, combat felt more like an obstacle to overcome in order to progress the story rather than the main incentive to play the game.
Exploration and Side Activities
- A variety of environments to visit
- Little incentive for exploration
- Side quests can unlock new character classes
It took me 50 hours to complete Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but there is so much to do beyond the main story that I reckon completionists could easily surpass the 100-hour mark.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 features open-world exploration, with various monsters wandering around the environment. Aggressive beasts will start a combat encounter as soon as they spot you, while more placid animals will leave you alone unless you strike first.
Hunting specific monsters can also give you the required ingredients to craft stat-boosting gems and cook meals that can temporarily increase the number of gold and experience points you earn after every battle.
However, since you can’t loot (or equip) new armour or weapons beyond changing your character class, I rarely felt a strong incentive to venture off the beaten track and explore my surroundings. Recent RPGs such as Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West do a far better job at rewarding exploration and curiosity.
Instead, you’re better off spending time completing side quests, particularly those that reward you with a new character class and hero to join your roster. There are also a few side missions that will focus on the personal story of one of the main characters in your party. Not only will this give you a greater look at their backstory and character development, but will also increase the level ceiling of their starting character class to allow them to become more powerful.
Graphics and Presentation
- Technical marvel on Nintendo Switch
- Cutscenes look incredible
- Very minor performance issues
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a technical marvel on the Nintendo Switch. With such a large map and a lot of chaotic action during combat, you’d assume that Nintendo’s portable would struggle to sustain smooth performance. However, I only ever noticed minor framerate drops.
Of course, the graphics are nowhere near as detailed as games such Final Fantasy 7 Remake on more powerful consoles, but I’m still impressed with Xenoblade Chronicles 3. There’s a great variety in the designs of the monsters that inhabit the world, while the environments are wonderfully detailed.
In particular, the cutscenes look outstanding. I’ve seen mecha suits battling it out and heart-racing sword fights on huge battlefields, ensuring Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has just as much spectacle as any anime. I’m also impressed by the level of detail on character animations, conveying complex emotion despite the simplistic artwork.
And it’s impossible not to mention the music. An electrifying orchestra is constantly setting the game’s tone, whether you’re jumping into battle or a character is engaged in a heartfelt conversation. Nintendo is already renowned for its outstanding music, yet Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is still arguably a cut above the rest.
Should you buy it?
You want an epic, grandiose story:
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 offers a fantastic story, with likeable characters with engaging personal stories and a grandiose premise about war. The cutscenes are amazing too, offering anime-level spectacle. If you want a grandiose jRPG story, this is one of 2022’s finest.
You want challenging and rewarding combat:
The combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is enjoyable, but its large 7-character party can make fighting feel passive, and so isn’t particularly challenging or rewarding. The weak progression system can also make combat feel repetitive.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is an epic RPG adventure with an intriguing story premise and spectacular action-packed cutscenes. I was captivated from beginning to end, and was really invested in the character arcs of the likeable main cast. The impressive visuals and music also help to improve immersion in this wonderful 50-hour adventure.
Combat is stylish and enjoyable, although the increase to a 7-character party has its drawbacks, while the lack of a substantial progression system can make it feel repetitive in the second half of the 50-hour adventure. And while the high fantasy world of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 sure looks impressive, there isn’t much incentive for exploration since you can’t loot new weapons or armour.
Overall, this is a great entry in the main trilogy, but will be more enjoyable for those looking for a JRPG with an epic story rather than a challenging and rewarding combat system.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Played on Nintendo Switch
Played through the entire single player campaign
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No, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a single-player game.
No, the story and main cast of characters are completely new, so you don’t need to play previous entries in the series to understand what’s going on.
It took me 50 hours to complete the campaign, but it will take far longer if you want to complete every side quest.